A New Jersey teenager attending her first year at Belmont University in Tennessee has died of her injuries after being shot in the head by a stray bullet, Nashville police announced Thursday.
Jillian Ludwig, 18, a musician from Wall, New Jersey, was taken to the hospital in extremely critical condition Wednesday after she was hit by a stray bullet while walking along a track in a park, Nashville police said in a statement on Thursday. Shaquille Taylor, 29, is accused of firing the bullet from a housing complex across the street from the park, police said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
According to police, Taylor was shooting at a car when one of the bullets hit Ludwig.
An arrest warrant viewed by The Tennessean said that video footage from the housing complex showed a person police alleged to be Taylor firing multiple shots at a dark sedan.
An anonymous tipster also identified the shooter as Taylor, according to the affidavit.
Taylor reportedly confessed to firing shots at the car and identified himself as the person from a still photograph obtained from the video footage.
Ludwig was declared dead from the gunshot wound, police said in a Thursday morning update.
Taylor was taken into custody outside his girlfriend’s apartment complex and charged with aggravated assault and evidence tampering for allegedly giving the gun to another person after the incident. Police said they are in discussion with the district attorney’s office to modify his charges now that Ludwig has died.
A public defender listed as Taylor’s attorney did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for a comment. Inmate records show his bond is set at $280,000.
In a statement to the Belmont community on Wednesday, Greg Jones, the university president, said the school is “deepening” its ongoing conversations with Nashville Metro officials to improve safety around the campus.
“This is a lot for us all to process. We grapple now with grief, anger, anxiety and a strong sense of fear in the face of senseless violence,” Jones said in the statement.
In a statement made before Ludwig’s death, Jones described her as a music business student who had engaged with the community.
“A music business major and bass player, she is often found at concerts, cheering on fellow musicians and using music as a way to connect with those around her. Jillian is also an avid runner who enjoys being outside,” Jones said.
Social media pages belonging to Ludwig show her passion for music, with several photos of her playing with her band at the iconic Stone Pony venue in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Taylor had a warrant out for his arrest after failing to appear in court Friday in connection with an alleged carjacking. He had been charged with felony auto theft in September and released on bail.
Court records reviewed by HuffPost showed Taylor was also convicted of misdemeanor assault after being initially charged with felony robbery in 2015.
In statement sent to local news station WKRN, Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk said that earlier this year, Taylor was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and released after three court-appointed doctors found him incompetent to stand trial. His case was dismissed.
Taylor also did not meet Tennessee state criteria for involuntary commitment to a mental health facility. According to Funk, Taylor would have needed at least two doctors to certify that he was “suffering from a severe mental illness or developmental disability” that would make him a “substantial risk” to himself or others. The district attorney advocated for changing the law to “balance individual needs with public safety,” though he did not give specifics.
In a statement sent to WSMV-TV in Nashville prior to Ludwig’s death, her aunt Geri Wainwright described her niece as “a star destined to shine so bright.”
“Her fearlessness, spontaneity, love of laughter, kindness and compassion make her irreplaceable to our family,” Wainwright said. “Losing her would forever change the fabric of our lives.”